This week, with my family by my side, I announced that I will be retiring as County Executive at the end of my third term, December 31, 2013. I have been humbled and honored to serve the people of Orange County in a variety of capacities for most of my life: from my earliest days as a councilman and deputy supervisor in the Town of Wallkill to my 12 years as a County legislator, and, of course, most recently as County Executive for what will be 12 years.
I am proud to have been given the opportunity by the people of this great County to lead Team Orange as the County’s highest elected official and serve the needs of the residents for three terms. I am exceptionally proud of what we have accomplished together to improve the overall quality of life here. We have enhanced public safety, held the line on taxes, facilitated economic growth, strengthened County finances, and updated infrastructure.
Making the decision to retire was one of the most difficult I have ever made and did not come easily or without a great deal of thought, consideration, and consultation with family and friends. It is, however, the right thing to do for my family, for my health, and for myself. It is time for me to focus on a new job – getting healthy.
The overwhelming support and encouragement that came my way following my announcement to retire was truly heart-warming. I heard from family, friends, colleagues, employees, residents, former students, and others from near and far who called, emailed, wrote on Facebook, and stopped me in person to wish me well in my retirement and my wait for a new liver. Thank you all for the kind words.
Since I made the announcement last November that I had been placed on the organ transplant list, my family, friends, staff, colleagues, and I have learned a great deal about organ donation and the donor registry program. We have worked closely with the New York Organ Donor Network (NYODN) and the Donate Life Group of Orange County to educate ourselves and get the word out about the importance of registering. The easiest way to register is at your local DMV office. County Clerk Donna Benson has worked closely with the NYODN for many years to train her staff so they know how to ask the right questions and address people’s concerns. I appreciate the support from the Orange County Chamber of Commerce for allowing County Clerk Benson to speak to more than 250 Chamber members about donor registry at a recent Chamber breakfast.
My good friend Steve Acquario, Executive Director of the New York Association of Counties (NYSAC), of which I am currently president, arranged for me to speak live on WAMC radio this week to share my experiences and what I have learned throughout the process thus far.
The national enrollment average for eligible donors (over 18 years of age) is 45%. In New York State it’s only 21%, and here in Orange County our enrollment rate hovers around 16%. I know our Orange County residents have a warm and giving spirit so that number surprises me. I know we can do better; I know we can change lives. Registering is easy, and anyone over the age of 18 can do it. An organ donor can positively affect - even save - the lives of as many as eight others on the transplant waiting list and tissue donations can help as many as 50 others. I encourage you to learn more by visiting www.savelivesnewyork.org. We can make a difference.
Thank you again for the support and encouragement. It is the people of this great County that make it the best place to live, work, and raise a family! Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.